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April 5, 2020 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Q: What's worse than being in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic? A: Being in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic and having to read about synthetic organic chemistry...
posted by jim in austin (11 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
In a similar vein, perhaps it's time for a reminder about Derek Lowe, who writes entertainingly about interesting chemicals and syntheses.
posted by spacewrench at 7:54 AM on April 5 [10 favorites]

Fortunately, there are creatures called "process chemists" – guys who laugh at the discovery synthesis, insult as many of us as possible, and then make it better so that the yields are higher and some of the most dangerous chemical reagents and solvents – ones you really don't want to use on a large scale – are replaced by others. They are generally a bunch of mutants, but they do a great job in "fixing" the synthesis used by the discovery chemists.

Every word in this paragraph is correct.
posted by mark k at 8:03 AM on April 5 [28 favorites]

Since we're in silly chemistry timez

A classic: Synthesizing Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) From Methamphetamine

Since sudafed is hard to get, some enterprising people found an easy-to-obtain staring material, meth, and went about making it from there....
posted by lalochezia at 8:20 AM on April 5 [34 favorites]

Also, in v1, re: straight up acute toxicity TMS-CN (trimethylsilyl cyanide) is far nastier than the other stuff (although the other stuff isn't too tasty either), although unlike many toxic materials with low vapor pressures, there is an antidote.....see the great comment from the perennial & skilled chemist 'milkshake' on the abovementioned derek lowe blog.
posted by lalochezia at 8:30 AM on April 5 [2 favorites]

Wikipedia: "Preliminary results were promising and it was used in the emergency setting during the Kivu Ebola epidemic that started in 2018 along with further clinical trials, until August 2019, when Congolese health officials announced that it was significantly less effective than monoclonal antibody treatments such as mAb114 and REGN-EB3. The trials, however, established its safety profile*."

*Unless your a process chemist.
posted by waving at 11:18 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]

One of the benefits of age is that a couple of scars from a 70's kid with a chemistry set and a 50's era college chemistry textbook have finally gone away. This is terrifying and interesting at the same time.
posted by zengargoyle at 12:51 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]

Synthesizing Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) From Methamphetamine

I was unaware that, among its other useful properties, methamphetamine is a powerful decongestant.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:13 PM on April 5 [3 favorites]

I was unaware that, among its other useful properties, methamphetamine is a powerful decongestant.

All amphetamines are vacoconstrictors which makes them good for decongestion. Some nose sprays are actually levomethamphetamine which is a flipped version of meth. It won't get you high but will still cause vacoconstriction.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 4:09 PM on April 5 [6 favorites]

From the meth-> Sudafed® paper:
We have demonstrated here a simple series of transformations which allow pseudoephedrine to be obtained in a more straightforward manner than is the current norm.
QFT, as people used to say (not sure that phrasing is au courant).
posted by spacewrench at 5:17 PM on April 5 [4 favorites]

Fun, thanks!
posted by Quietgal at 7:50 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]

Let's drink to the Organic Chemist
Let's drink to the salt of the Earth
posted by sydnius at 4:26 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]

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